June in Vermont marked by birch, oak pollen, poplar down

There’s an abundance of green flakes covering sidewalks and cars right now, and it seems hard to avoid the white fluffy tufts in the air lately. There is a film of green over the waters along the shores of Lake Champlain and if the wind blows be prepared to encounter fluff clouds.

So what’s going on with all that green foil and white fluff? The short answer: oaks, birches, and poplars release a lot of pollen, but the good news is that tree pollen will soon die out.

So while the budding trees in May have produced all the pollen in the air, as spring turns to summer, the ever-present pollen will fade.

Green Pollen – Birches and Oaks

The green dust covering cars, sidewalks and everywhere else is probably birch or oak pollen. These two types of trees produce the yellow and green colored pollen that accumulates in the area.

Different birch species pollinate at different times throughout this time of year, and multiple species overlap, causing pollen buildup around the state right now, according to pollen.com.

Oak trees also produce some of that green pollen that’s been ubiquitous lately. These trees are also guilty of seasonal allergies due to their pollen. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, young oak trees grow very quickly and slowly when they are older, so more pollen is likely to be found around young oak trees.

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New England has no shortage of oaks and birches, which lead to heavy pollen counts at this time of year, but as the trees grow more, the pollen will soon subside.

Eastern cottonwood – White down

Poplars, or Cottonwood as they are often called, are responsible for the white fluff that has seemingly been everywhere lately. Poplar trees contribute to seasonal allergies and according to polllen.com, the white seed pods that are still present today are actually a good sign!

Cottonwoods in the spring of 2012 at Shelburne Farms.

When those white pods start swirling through the air, it means the trees have already pollinated and the pollen is dying out for the year. So, while the white fluff in the air may be annoying, it means the beginning of the end of pollination for this tree.

Vermont Pollen: Now and for the Future

According to the Yale School of Medicine, tree allergies are fairly common in New England, but tree pollen in Vermont is nearing the end of its peak intensity. As the seasons approach summer, grass allergy season will begin to emerge.

To keep up to date with pollen levels in the state, Vermont’s pollen count is updated regularly on this interactive map: https://www.pollen.com/map/vt.

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Pollen will continue to trigger seasonal allergies, and according to the Vermont Department of Health, climate change will only exaggerate allergy season. The department warns on its website that “the longer growing season, combined with increased plant growth due to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air, is likely to increase allergenic pollen in the air. that we breathe”.

So clean that pollen from the car and keep some face masks on hand for the return of seasonal allergies next season and beyond.

Kate O’Farrell is a reporter for the Burlington Free Press. You can reach her at [email protected]

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